Music industry lobbyists debut giant inflatable pig in radio royalty battle

A giant inflatable pig was planted in front of the Dupont Circle offices of the National Association of Broadcasters today in protest of the industry's refusal to pay additional royalties to musicians when airing their music.

The protest--which ended up consisting of only five people--was organized by the Radio Accountability Project, whose members include the Recording Industry Association of America, SoundExchange, and the American Federation of Musicians.

The 18-foot-long pig was the latest barb exchanged between the music industry and broadcasters over the Performance Rights Act, favored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.)

These groups want Congress to force broadcasters to pay royalties to performers and artists since other radio formats--online, satellite and cable--all pay musicians. The pig is supposed to symbolize the "piggish" attitudes of corporate radio stations.

"Just when you thought you couldn't take one more corporation expecting a free handout--no big radio is nosing around for another bailout by refusing to pay musicians for their work," reads an advertising campaign launched today.

Radio stations have vehemently protested what they call a "performance tax," arguing free airtime has long launched and sustained singers' careers and continues to provide free promotion to bands.

Broadcasters fought back today with their own gimmick-- bringing out sausage pizza to the protesters.

"We're suggesting they provide this food to the scores of exploited musicians who have had to sue their record label to recoup allegedly unpaid album royalties," said NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton.

Wharton called the inflatable pig a "silly frat-boy stunt" and a "new low" in the music industry's campaign.

NAB says 256 House members support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which sould prohibit Congress from imposing a "new performance fee, tax, royalty or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station."

Last week, the groups representing musicians hosted a press conference with singer Dionne Warwick in the House. The next day, broadcasters staged a rally outside the Capitol South Metro station to rebut the music groups' claims.